Just 3 years, 5 months and 12 days. That’s all the time Gabe was granted to spend on this Earth. Three years or a hundred and thirty wouldn’t have been enough time with Gabe.
All of Gabe’s short life was spent fighting a disease that most people have never heard of, Dravet Syndrome. While Gabe carried the daily burden of difficulties that Dravet brought to him, he also brought a fierce determination to beat this tragedy, to never give up and most of all enjoy the absolute best of everything this world had to offer. Gabe was surrounded by a loving family that absolutely adored him. He had the most amazing teachers and care givers at his school in Roanoke County, VA. He visited the countries most renowned healthcare facilities and was blessed with some of the most talented and caring doctors you could ask for.
But Gabe’s greatest advantage came from inside his huge heart. He was the happiest little boy to walk this Earth and saw the world as his playground. No matter where he went or what he did, everyone that met Gabe remembered that huge grin and belly busting laugh at the silliest of things. It didn’t matter if he was laughing at a funny sound he learned to make or his “MA” wrestling with him on the floor, his laugh filled the room and was so infectious you just couldn’t help but laugh along.
To look at Gabe you’d never know he was battling a vicious, progressing disease. Unless you happened to catch him after a particularly bad day and noticed a new bruise or lump or cut that wasn’t there the day before. Gabe’s head drops would come out of nowhere and in a flash be gone just as quickly as they’d appeared. But despite how hard he’d fall, he’d get right back up and keep on plowing ahead. He was as tough as nails.
Gabe loved anything with wheels and his favorite was tractors. In particular, his Pop-Pop’s big red tractor. Gabe and his Pop-Pop were the best of buds. Two peas in a pod and both so in love with the other that they just couldn’t stand it! Even just driving up the road to Pop-Pop and Nan’s house, that big grin would appear and Gabe would start squealing with joy until he saw his best buddy. Then of course he’d play all coy, look away at some adventure in the distance and ask, “What’s that?!?”!
While Gabe was a man of few spoken words, he had a world of things to say and teach us. With the help of his mom and his teachers, Gabe had learned some sign language. He could ask for food, say please, more, All-Gone and Yes! He’d scrunch up his little hands and make all the right signs until you understood what he needed. He could clearly call for his “MAAAAAaaa”, ask “WHATZAT?”. Gabe could also clearly say “I love you”. He didn’t use his voice to say it, but he’d give monstrous hugs and gently pat your back as if to say, “yeah, I love you too”. Gabe was quite the gentleman. His favorite move was to take the ladies by the hand and gently give them a little peck on the top of their hand. He also blew kisses generously. But those just scratched the surface with Gabe. If you looked into those big, beautiful blue eyes when you spoke to him, you could clearly see he understood so much of what we were saying, he just needed us to slow down to hear what he was trying to tell us. For those that did, we truly know the depth of love that lived in little Gabriel’s heart, and it was the most special gift we’ll ever receive.
Gabe will always be a daily reminder of just how precious life is and how important it is to never, ever take the people or little things in our lives for granted. Gabe’s fight is over now. He’s in Heaven, free from seizures & drop attacks, can eat whatever he wants now and is probably talking like crazy to whomever happens to cross his path.
II Timothy 4:7 reads, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Gabe fought against Dravet daily and despite its challenges Gabe ran his short race with the spirit and endurance of a world-class athlete. A pretty darn cute one at that!
We knew Gabe for too short a time, but in that short time he left footprints on our souls so large and deep that we could never forget him. Our world is certainly not a better place without him. We’ll miss him and his laughter and the joy he added to our lives. But we’ll also feel peace knowing that he’s in a much better place now and that he’s happy and free from all the things that slowed him down on Earth.